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OQ                                                                                                                              B.   POLEVOI
And still further on, along the forest road, near some
motley-coloured tanks, on the edges of large shell craters,
in the foxholes, near some old tree stumps, everywhere
lay dead bodies, in padded jackets and trousers and in
faded green tunics and forage-caps pulled over the ears;
bent knees, upraised chins and waxen faces gnawed by
foxes and pecked by magpies and ravens protruded from
the snowdrifts.
Several ravens were circling slowly over the glade and
this suddenly reminded Alexei of the mournful but
magnificent picture of "The Battle of Igor" reproduced
in his school history book from the canvas of a great
Russian artist.
"I might have been lying here like them," he thought,
and again the sense of being alive surged through his
whole being. He shook himself. The rough grindstones
were still turning slowly in his head, his feet burned and
ached worse than before, but he sat down on the bear's
carcass, now cold and silvery from the dry snow that
powdered it, and began to ponder what to do, where to
go, how to get to his own forward lines.
When he was thrown out of his aircraft he had lost
his map case, but he could vividly picture the route he
had to take. The German airfield, which the Stormovik
had attacked, lay about sixty kilometres west of the
forward lines. During the air battle his men had drawn
the enemy about twenty kilometres east away from the
airfield, and, after escaping from the double "pincers", he
himself must have got a little farther to the east. Con-
sequently, he must have fallen about thirty-five kilometres
from the forward lines, far behind the forward German
divisions, somewhere in the region of the enormous tract
of forest land known as the Black Forest, over which
he had flown more than once when escorting bombers
and Stormoviks in short raids on near-by German bases.
From the air this forest had always looked to him like a
boundless green sea. In clear weather it heaved with the
swaying tops of the pine-trees; but in bad weather,
enveloped in a thin, grey mist, it looked like a smooth,
dreary waste of water with small waves rolling on the
The fact that he had fallen into the middle of this